This post by Thomas Marcum, Thomas is the founder/leader of the cryptozoology and paranormal research organization known as The Crypto Crew. Over 20 years experience with research and investigation of unexplained activity, working with video and websites. A trained wild land firefighter and a published photographer, and poet.
Interview with Researcher Cliff BarackmanThe interview series squatches on with our 13th installment. Who better to talk with than Cliff Barackman. I know most, if not all, of you know Cliff from the popular TV show Finding Bigfoot, but if you are not visiting his website (CliffBarackman.com), then you are missing a wealth of good information.
- Start Interview -
TM: How long have you been researching/studying bigfoot?
CB: I've been doing field work for 20 years now, though I was reading everything I could get my hands on about bigfoot for a while before that. I have been camping and backpacking for nearly all my life.
TM: What got you interested in Bigfoot, Was there a particular event that got you started?
CB: I've always loved “monsters” since I was a little boy, so I would watch “In Search Of...” and the other 1970's television shows as I was growing up. However, it was in college that my academic interests turned toward this field. I had a few-hour break between classes, so I started hanging out in the college library to kill time. I'd wander the isles picking books off of the shelf in subjects that I was interested in, mostly the sciences. One day I stumbled into the Anthropology section and found some books on sasquatches. I pulled a book off the shelf (Manlike Monsters on Trial by Halpin and Ames) that was basically a collection of journal articles on the subject written by scientists. This book changed things for me because I saw that a small number of academics were pursuing the subject, not just fringe laymen as was my belief. I then moved onto some of the books by John Green and learned about the sheer number of people who were all reporting the same thing. Finally, Dr. Krantz's excellent book (Big Footprints) really set the hook for me. I immediately started camping with the purpose of trying to see a sasquatch or to go to historic bigfoot locations. I've been hopelessly drowning in the subject ever since.
TM: During your research/studying of Bigfoot, have you ever encountered aggressive behavior or felt in danger from a bigfoot?
CB: Not really. I've observed a small handful of behaviors that might be considered aggressive. I have been growl/hissed at from close range twice, but while I recognized the sound as coming from a large animal and the meaning seemed pretty clear, I didn't feel in danger. I simply complied with leaving on one occasion (I was alone), and on the other Bobo and I whispered back and forth to each other and laughed from excitement a bit. I've had a couple rock throwing events as well, but again, I didn't feel in danger. My usual reaction to having a bigfoot around is one of joy, not fear. Who knows, though? Maybe someday one will scare the crap out of me and all that will change. I know at least one researcher that happened to.
TM: It seems Skeptics are always ready to attack bigfoot research, How do you deal with it?
CB: Skepticism is generally a good thing. There is a lot of garbage out there regarding bigfoots, and one needs to question the validity of much of it.
The people who strongly oppose even the possibility that sasquatches are real are another type of skeptic, holding onto their belief as if it was a religious one. I have found that the vast majority of them haven't adequately educated themselves on the subject, so most of their arguments are moot. I don't bother engaging with these types of skeptics in the same way that I don't bother engaging with people that think the Earth is flat.
There are a small number of skeptics that are well-versed in bigfoot and still don't believe in the animals. I find them to be very useful to talk with, and I've even become good friends with a couple of them. They give me different points of views to consider, and they ask the hard questions. Since bigfoots are real animals, their hard questions about the subject should have good answers (and they do).
One final note on this... I don't really care what others think or say, as long as they are civil and polite. Disagreeing with someone about bigfoot is a very minor thing in life, and this subject should never be used as an excuse to be a jerk.
TM: Would you like to see Bigfoot accepted and/or proven to the general public?
CB: “Acceptance” and “proven” are two entirely different things. For example, on most Native American reservations, the presence of sasquatches is accepted by the residents. They live alongside each other in peace with a general understanding. I would love to see this happen in more places, especially with the dominant Euro-American culture.
For most of the public, and all scientists, to have the species “proven” will demand a holotype, or a dead one to dissect and describe in a journal article. I do not in any way support this, but solely from a position of compassion. I think it is inappropriate to kill something like a sasquatch to satisfy our curiosity about them. I didn't always feel this way, though. My early bigfooting days were deeply influenced by John Green and Dr. Grover Krantz, both advocates of proving the species with a bullet. It was through learning about sasquatches and the other apes that increased my compassion for them to the point that I think it is simply morally wrong to kill them for any reason. They are simply too similar to our own species both physically and mentally. So I go bigfooting because I love the subject and the creatures, and I'm always trying to increase my knowledge of them.
Learning about bigfoots is what brought me to my no-kill position, so I advocate others to learn about them too in hopes that they will come to the same conclusion.
That being said, one will eventually be killed for the sake of science, or an accidental kill will end up in a scientist's lab. Since sasquatches are really there, I see this as inevitable. I do not need to advocate killing one for it to happen, and my opposition to killing one doesn't matter much either. Hopefully my no-kill position will influence others be compassionate towards sasquatches and will help people to not fear them.
TM: What is your favorite time of year to research/study bigfoot, When do you have your most success?
CB: My favorite time of year to go bigfooting is during the summer months, but mostly because I don't like being cold. I think I have been most successful in those months, but that might be a factor of knowing where some really good spots are that are only accessible during the summer. I have encountered bigfoots in the winter as well.
TM: Do you have a favorite Bigfoot story or report?
CB: Not really. After hearing and reading literally thousands of eyewitness accounts over the years, most of them tend to blur together. It's so hard to narrow them down to a favorite. I love the sighting reports that tell me a good location, or those that show some interesting behavior on the part of the sasquatch. Those are the reports that really get me excited nowadays.
Some reports do stand out, though, like the biologist who saw a lanky, emaciated “orangutan” in the Trinity Alps of California basking on a rocky outcropping. The man watched it for a few seconds trying to figure out what he was looking at when suddenly the sasquatch's head turned back towards him, almost like an owl's, and it stared at him for a few brief seconds with expressionless animal eyes before springing away across the rocks and slipping through a gap that seemed far too narrow for it to fit through. The witness told me it looked almost spider-like because of the length of its limbs. Because of his biological background, the witness had many interesting observations about its anatomy that spurred a fascinating exchange between us about the habits of the creatures in regard to the details he saw.
I also love piecing together the details surrounding footprint finds. Most of the documentation of the footprint casts is scattered and incomplete, so I spend a lot of time chasing down details about the stories behind the casts for my footprint cast database on my website. I think that these details add a lot of credibility to the casts, and they certainly round out the stories of their findings. New casts are always coming to light as well through this research. I love all the casting stories.
TM: What would you be doing if you weren't researching/studying bigfoot?
CB: I guess I'd be wasting my time.
Thanks for doing the interview and we wish you continued success. Thanks for the work you do outside of the TV show.
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